The Dean’s Annual Letter

10 September 2019

Dear colleagues,

Welcome and welcome back! I hope that you were able to use the summer to rest, recharge, make headway on various projects, and that you are energized for the new school year is underway. As you know, this is the year of strategic planning. Many of you participated last May in the strategic planning process at the all-faculty retreat, and you have already been hearing about opportunities to contribute this fall to shaping the vision and set of goals for the college’s next 10-15 years. In this letter I shall share some developments related to faculty life.

I urge you to attend the monthly faculty meetings as a way to be informed about and contribute to deliberations on matters crucial to faculty life. It is the most capacious site for faculty governance. The first faculty meeting tomorrow offers two extra incentives: it offers you a chance both to explore the new Williams Inn and to meet new faculty.  Immediately following the meeting, there will be a reception.

As always, it is very exciting to welcome new faculty to campus, some of whom you will recognize as having been here previously as visitors or fellows. Sixteen faculty begin as assistant professors this fall:

Johanna Breiding (Art, Studio), Eliza Congdon (Psychology), Christine DeLucia (History), Graham Giovanetti (Physics), Anne Jaskot (Astronomy/Physics), Haydee Lindo (Mathematics/Statistics), Sam McCauley (Computer Science), Shaoyang Ning (Mathematics/Statistics), Shanti Pillai (Theatre), Shivon Robinson (Psychology), Shikha Singh (Computer Science), Ben Thuronyi (Chemistry), Cécile Tresfels (Romance Languages), Amanda Turek (Chemistry), Elizabeth Upton (Mathematics/Statistics), Tommy Verdell (Athletics), and Aaron Williams (Computer Science). In addition, Nelly Rosario (Latina/o Studies) and Kelly Shaw (Computer Science) join us as tenured faculty members. Cynthia Holland (Biology) and Sidney Rothstein (Political Science) will join us as assistant professor in January.

We also welcome dissertation and postdoctoral fellows to campus each year. Our new Bolin Fellows are Franny Choi (English) and Brittany Meché (Environmental Studies), and we are joined by Mellon postdoctoral fellows Raquel De Souza (Africana Studies) and Sohaib Khan (Religion – Spring semester). We welcome many other early career and senior distinguished visitors as well.  You can learn more about all of this year’s new faculty here and at the faculty meeting.

Faculty Leadership
Part of what makes Williams unusual, even among many of our liberal arts peers, is the range of leadership positions available to faculty members. Fulfilling these roles is unrelated to our training for the professoriate but is crucial for robust faculty governance. This section highlight changes.

I’m grateful to faculty who serve as Department and Program chairs. New chairs this year include Maria Elena Cepeda (co-chair Latina/o Studies), Dick DeVeaux (Mathematics/Statistics), Sarah Goh (Chemistry), Amie Hane (Public Health), Kiaran Honderich (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Roger Kittleson (co-chair Latina/o Studies), Tim Lebestky (Neuroscience), James McAllister (Leadership Studies), Mark Reinhardt (Political Science), Neil Roberts (Africana), Noah Sandstrom (Psychology), Mihai Stoiciu (Assoc. Chair of Mathematics/Statistics), Janneke van de Stadt (German/Russian), Carmen Whalen (co-chair, Latina/o Studies).  Thanks to who just completed your terms or who are continuing this year.

Faculty also chair our college-wide committees.  A complete list of committee membership, including faculty chairs can be found here. I’ll call special attention to Amanda Wilcox (Classics), who is the chair of Faculty Steering Committee this year.

First 3, our program for faculty members in their first three years at the college, is coordinated by three tenured faculty members, one from each academic division.  This year, Nicole Mellow (Political Science) joins Bernie Rhie (English) and Phoebe Cohen (Geosciences).  Many thanks to Magnus Bernhardsson (History) for his years of service to First 3. Faculty members also serve as the Director of the Williams-Exeter Program, our study away program based at Oxford University. Lucie Schmidt (Economics) is serving as the current Director, and Steve Swoap (Biology) will begin as Director on July 1, 2020. Carmen Whalen (History) is returning temporarily to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as interim Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion while Ngoni Munemo (Political Science) takes a well-deserved sabbatical this semester before returning for a second term as Associate Dean of OIDEI.  Kashia Pieprzak (Romance Languages) is heading into her second and final year of a two-year term as Associate Dean of Faculty, so please contact me if you are interested in this opportunity.

Faculty Milestones
Last year, twelve colleagues were reappointed as second term Assistant Professors: Pei-wen Chen (Biology), José Constantine (Geosciences), Amal Eqeiq (Arabic Studies), Pam Harris (Mathematics/Statistics), Catherine Kealhofer (Physics), Ralph Morrison (Mathematics/Statistics), Sophie Saint-Just (Romance Languages), Justin Shaddock (Philosophy), Matt Tokeshi (Political Science), Laurie Tupper (Mathematics/Statistics), Daniel Turek (Mathematics/Statistics), Saadia Yacoob (Religion).

Six faculty were promoted to Associate Professor with tenure: Julie Blackwood (Mathematics and Statistics), Matt Carter (Biology), Jessica Fisher (English), Jeff Israel (Religion), Aparna Kapadia (History), and Anjuli Raza Kolb (English).

Seven faculty were promoted to Full Professor: Q Ashraf (Economics), Amy Holzapfel (Theatre), Sara Lalumia (Economics), James Manigault-Bryant (Africana), Ngoni Munemo (Political Science), JJ Storm (Religion), and Amanda Wilcox (Classics).

Congratulations to you all!

Finally, five long-time and esteemed colleagues retired last year: Karen Kwitter (Astronomy), Carol Ockman (Art History), Shanti Singham (Africana/History), Steve Souza (Astronomy), and Peter Wells (PE). My warmest wishes for the next chapter.

Many academic units celebrate faculty successes; the college regularly showcases faculty work in three annual ways in the second semester: first, the Faculty Lecture Series features lectures by six faculty members on their scholarly or creative work; second, the college libraries host a series of faculty speakers on recently published books, and the year culminates with an end-of-the year reception at Sawyer Library celebrating faculty publications (the library compiles a list of faculty publications for the year, which can be found here). In addition to continuing to submit annual activity reports and sending the office a copy of any books, CDs, or other work you produce (for display), please do not be shy about letting us know about your accomplishments as they occur throughout the year.

The year ahead
Williams College is committed to building a community where everyone feels acknowledged, supported, and valued. Last year, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty in partnership with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, held a number of listening sessions for faculty members, helping to inform our continued work.

These efforts are not new to Williams.  We have worked over the years to develop longer-term strategies both here at Williams and through collaborative efforts with other institutions.  Williams was a founding member of both the Liberal Arts Diversity Officer consortium (LADO, a consortium of small liberal arts colleges) as well as the Creating Connections Consortium (C3, a Mellon-funded initiative in which four LADO institutions partnered with U.C. Berkeley, University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago).  Williams will host the next C3 “Summit” a multi-day series of workshops and presentations concerning transforming higher education in October 2020.  Faculty members interested in helping to plan this event are warmly invited to contact me.

Last year we joined two organizations to advance this work further.  We are now members of the Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD, a liberal arts college initiative similar in mission to our Bolin program). Through these bodies we have been working actively to develop and share best practices for supporting students and scholars underrepresented in higher education at all stages of their careers, as well as to recruit faculty from underrepresented groups. We are also now members of Scholars at Risk, an international network to support academics suffering grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being by arranging temporary research and teaching positions at institutions in our network as well as by providing advisory and referral services.

Part of this commitment involves acknowledging gender diversity on campus and respectfully addressing our students and colleagues. Being attentive to what pronouns we use allows us to respect the multi-faceted identities of our community members. Everyone has the right to be addressed as they should be, and we leave that to each individual to determine. As you consider strategies for pronoun use, please reference the list of resources below to help advance Williams’ inclusion efforts: A guide to pronoun practices at Williams; information about pronouns on class rosters from the Registrar’s Office; Best Practices for inclusive communication practices (written and in-person).  Many have found the “‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know” to be an especially handy resource.

You will soon receive a separate communication about a pilot shuttle to support faculty and staff in accessing New York City, thanks to suggestions generated in these listening sessions and a follow-up transportation survey.

Many academic units will be conducting one or more tenure-track or senior-level searches this year including:

American Studies (Asian American Studies), Art (20th c. European History), Asian Studies (Japanese), Chemistry (Organic), Computer Science, Economics, German/Russian (Russian), History (African History and African-American History), Physics, Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience), and Romance Languages (Mexican Literature).  Details of these positions can be found here. In addition, a number of units will conduct searches for visitors, and all units will have the opportunity to nominate candidates for Bolin fellowships.  As always, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty will partner with the Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to support all searches and provide resources and tools to help us recruit and assess candidates in ways that will allow us to hire and retain more faculty from groups still underrepresented at the college, especially faculty of color.

News from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty
The members of our office on the third floor of Hopkins Hall work to support all things faculty-related and generally keep things running smoothly. Barb Pietras (Faculty Information Systems Administrator), will be retiring at the end of the calendar year, so we’ll be conducting a search for her successor. As noted above, we shall also be appointing a new Associate Dean of the Faculty, as Kashia Pieprzak completes her term.

Our office continues to offer and develop programming and opportunities to support faculty development in teaching, scholarship, and professional development. The Gaudino Scholar, Schumann Fellow, and Hyde Fellow are roles that faculty play in term appointments, and that offer wide latitude for creative programming. Susan Engel (Psychology) is beginning her final year as the Gaudino Scholar, continuing to explore how engaged conversations in the classroom and beyond can form opinions and bring about intellectual change. We are currently in the process of selecting the next Gaudino Scholar, based on the letters of interest received last year. Neil Roberts (Africana) began his term as the Schumann Fellow for Democratic Studies last fall and hosted a wide range of high profile events on the theme of Race and Democracy, including a fall panel on Free Speech and Intolerance, a spring national conference on Democracy and Freedom, and in June, a session of the annual Caribbean Philosophical Association Summer School. Steve Gerrard (Philosophy) and Ronadh Cox (Geosciences) are both finishing their 3-year terms as John Hyde Teaching Fellows. Last year we announced an additional pedagogical opportunity for faculty: teaching innovation fellowships. We awarded the inaugural fellowship to Karen Merrill (History), for her project to develop a new survey course entitled “On the World Oil Made” which incorporates innovative digital technology projects to visually represent this global history. Please keep an eye out for opportunities to apply for this fellowship again this year. Christian Thorne (English) continues to serve this fall as the Faculty Fellow at Williams-Mystic; stay tuned for a call for this opportunity later this year–no maritime experience needed.

We shall continue to offer programming related to publishing and research, such as Publishing Day and a faculty panel on tips for making the most of sabbatical. Our office is working to address the temporary shortfall in support for faculty seeking external grants caused by some transitions in the Office of College Relations.  And this year, we shall be developing more workshops related the roles and responsibilities of department and program chairs. Please check out the Dean of the Faculty webpage and the  Networks for Faculty Development site, which showcase the array of resources available to support faculty in our teaching, creative work, mentoring, and professional development at every stage of our careers. Additional resources are available to faculty through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

Although I’ve seen a number of you over the summer, I look forward to seeing everyone (and meeting some of you for the first time) very soon.  Good luck to you all with the beginning of the year!

All best,
Denise